When she sings in the finals of the Metropolitan Opera Auditions next Sunday, Pamela Coburn of Norfolk, the Washington regional winner, will face competition not only from voices but from a prestigious operatic name. Among the 11 finalists is 32-year-old tenor Walter MacNeil of Brooklyn, the oldest of baritone Cornell MacNeil's five children. For a while, the younger MacNeil hesitated to try a singing career and took a "very interesting" job as a customs inspector specializing in narcotics. "I had doubts," he explains, "whether I was a baritone or a tenor. If I'd been a baritone, forget it. I'm still of the feeling that my father's gift is greater than mine. I wouldn't want to be a pale imitation."
Coburn's mother is also a professional musician but less well-known; she teaches voice and piano privately. "She is a dramatic coloratura, with an incredible voice," says Coburn. "She had a great career in Chicago and was invited to New York but opted to get married."
Whether or not Coburn finishes first in the finals, she already has a contract with the Munich State Opera, besides the $5,000 in scholarship funds she has won so far.